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Week 8 The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu: Reconciling Micro and Macro?

Brian Singer
SOCI3692
Monisha Sathivel
Structure, Habitus, Practices
Pierre Bourdieu
In Structure, Habitus, Practices, the main argument that Pierre Bourdieu makes is
power is culturally and symbolically created and constantly reinforced through interplay of
agency and structure. This is done through the habitus. The habitus is socialized norms or
tendencies that guide behavior and thinking. It influences the identity, actions and choices of the
individual. The habitus structures inherent qualities of mind and character in an individual and is
produced by the conditionings associated with a particular class of conditions of existence, this
constitutes of systems of durable and transposable dispositions. (Bourdieu)
The habitus, for Bourdieu, are dispositions, the way you behave, act and think that the
individual is habituated to and is attained unconsciously through socialization, their family,
school etc. Bourdieu distinguishes two things, the habitus of class and the individual habitus. The
habitus of class is the idea that a class of individuals, have communal dispositions in their
lifestyle and so they will have shared orientation through their shared habitus. But the habitus of
class isnt something that is individual. Its more of a collective reality.
In distinguishing the individual habitus, Bourdieu goes on to further say that the
individual has his/her own habitus, and within it, has a class habitus. The individual habitus is
then, the singular composition of different collective stratums. The individual can be anyone,
worker or boss, young or old, man or woman, black or white etc. Each individual will therefore
have different characteristics, due to the fact they are coming from a different habitus of class. In
each individual these different characteristics will combine making an individual habitus (as a

Week 8 The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu: Reconciling Micro and Macro?


Brian Singer
SOCI3692
Monisha Sathivel
package). Everyone is unique but at the same time is made in the collective space. This is one of
the biggest elements that allow us to think from the habitus of class and individual.
Habitus is a product of history; it produces individual and collective practice in
accordance with the schemes generated by history. (Bourdieu) Through a system of present past
it reinforces the active presence of past experiences which is instilled in an organism through
thought, perception and action. This ensures the righteousness of practices and their constancy
over a period of time, this tends to be more reliable than all formal rules and explicit norms.
These dispositions are shaped by past events and structures and shape current practices and
structures and condition our perception. The habitus is not fixed or permanent and can be
changed under certain conditions or over a long period of time.
The habitus is internalized as a second nature and gives practices their relative autonomy
which makes the individual an agent of the world. It is this immanent law inscribed in the bodies
by identical histories which are the pre-conditions for the coordination of practices but also for
practices of coordination. (Bourdieu)
Through the habitus agents shape their aspirations according to the chance of access to a
particular good and motivations and needs. Due to the fact, the dispositions in the agent are
durably shaped by the possibilities and impossibilities, freedoms and necessities, opportunities
and prohibitions inscribed in their objective conditions which generate disposition objectively
compatible with these conditions and in a sense pre-adapted to their demands. The relation to
what is possible is a relation to power. The habitus protects itself or at least protects the
individual concerned in a sense by favouring experiences that are likely to reinforce it. This

Week 8 The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu: Reconciling Micro and Macro?


Brian Singer
SOCI3692
Monisha Sathivel
selective perception reinforces the habitus rather than transforming it. The habitus adjusts itself
to probable future which it anticipates and helps bring it about because it reads directly into the
present of the presumed world. Therefore the realistic relation to what is possible is founded on
and limited by power (the habitus which is itself formed by a system of power). The way society
becomes deposited in persons in the form of lasting dispositions, propensities to think, feel and
act in determinant ways inclines agent to cut their coats according to their cloth and become the
accomplices of the process.
I found this reading related to Durkheims theories. Durkheim suggests that categories are
collective representations; they are a product of society. People collectively constitute society,
but because society is a sui generis phenomenon they are prior to the experiences of any
particular person. In Durkheims theory of the division of labour which is not only an economic
theory, he states that there can be many types of spheres- cultural, economical and political
spheres. There are some correlation between mechanical solidarity and class habitus and organic
solidarity and individual habitus. In mechanical solidarity there is mass production, every
individual is similar. In mechanic solidarity there is a conscience collective, which englobes
society consciousness. While in organic solidarity there is space for evolution, development or
organisms and managing complexity. The conscience collective take a different character
depending on the division of labour. Durkheim goes further to say that functionality does not
exist on the level of individual cause. One thinks of a collective mind, society as a collective
actor.

Week 8 The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu: Reconciling Micro and Macro?


Brian Singer
SOCI3692
Monisha Sathivel
Bibliography
Calhoun, Craig J., Joseph Gerteis, James Moody, Steven Pfaff, and Indermohan Virk.Classical
Sociological Theory: Ed. by Craig Calhoun .. 3rd ed. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. Print.

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